There just sometimes seems to be no end of the carping and bitching and whining about DMs exercising their Gary-given powers. It's the Authoritarian DM, or the Adversarial DM, or the Viking-hat DM, or the Killer DM. DM fiat is abhorred as unbalanced and "deprotagonizing".
If you see someone actually use the term deprotagonize, grab your dice and run. Those people are black holes of gaming, from which no fun can escape.
I think that I can fairly assume that if you're reading a blog on the internet about out of print Dungeons & Dragons, that you're probably a DM
So, what is it that you want from your players?
It's great if you have players who'll bring snacks, or help set up, or clean up after. But that's just what you want from any guest. The thing I want most from players, in game, is for them to ask me questions.
Ask lots of questions, about the NPCs, about the buildings, about the horses, about the road, about the doors, about the walls, about the tavern keeper, about the moneylender, about the halfling hanging in an iron cage at the crossroads. If I don't have something written down, I'll make it up, right then.
It's not going to throw off my story, because I'm not fricken telling a story. I've got no idea what the heck's going to happen next. I'm not running an improvisational theater troupe. Dice come with the game for a reason.
Each question asked adds to the reality of the game world. Each one contributes some new, tiny bit of knowledge that reinforces the sense of immersion that I want to build.
Especially the inconsequential little things. The stuff that doesn't directly effect play is just as important as the things that do.
This is a Role Playing Game, and not just a combat simulator. The world has to have depth, it has to breath. And, if you can describe that breath as sour, and ragged, and drawn through stained snaggle teeth, it's ten times better than just counting the number per round.
I want to hear questions because it indicates a level of investment in the game. People who are just phoning it in, and just sit there waiting to be spoon fed warm, pre-chewed adventure piss me off. I expect engagement in my players.
I think the second thing I really want is for every player to be willing to play along with every other player.
There's lots of different play styles out there. Thespians, Strategists, Hackers, Game players, what have you. It's nearly arguing about pin-dancing angels to try and define them all, so I don't.
The thing I want is for each player at the table to recognize that they have a preferred style, and so do the others. I want them to make allowances for each other, and play like a team. Not necessarily an in-game team like a tactical assault squad, but like a group of experienced players of any sport who realize that everyone has something they're best at, and lets that player shine when the opportunity arises.
I will create at least the possibility of situations arising which play to the strong suites of the styles of everybody at the table. I want everyone to have a chance to get what they want out of the game, and I want the players to do their part to make sure this happens as well.
I think of this as the, "humor the Bard rule".
Do unto others, gentlemen. And let the good times roll.
12 minutes ago